Uncertainty is par for the course on The Handmaid's Tale, but when Emily was dropped off at a new home in "Postpartum," it was especially hard to get a handle on the situation. Commander Lawrence was strange and unreadable; he didn't seem to follow Gilead's rules even though he helped create them. But Emily's new placement was surprisingly fortuitous, and she ended Season 2 with the first hint of hope in a while. So what happened to Emily on The Handmaid's Tale?
Warning: this post contains spoilers for the finale episode of The Handmaid's Tale.
Before things got better for Emily, they got a lot worse. She had been dreading the first Ceremony in her new home, which ramped up the tension of an already-fraught scenario. She had no idea if Lawrence was trustworthy or not. He didn't give her any indication of his real beliefs, just wandered around the house playing pre-Gilead tunes and yelling at his Martha. Emily was clearly terrified of what could happen (and after everything she's been through, it's obvious why), so she took a knife from the kitchen and hid it in her dress before the Ceremony began.
But the Ceremony never happened. Instead, Lawrence dismissed Emily and sent her back to her room. He also lied to Aunt Lydia to cover for Emily, telling her it went splendidly instead of revealing the truth. When Aunt Lydia offered Emily backhanded praise in response, it set off the chain of events that altered Emily's fate.
It seemed as though Emily was in a state of panic throughout the entirety of "The Word." She was unresponsive when Aunt Lydia first congratulated her, then scolded her for not demonstrating enough excitement. Aunt Lydia told Emily to be grateful and said God had been merciful to her: "He offers redemption even to the most perverse and degenerate of his flock." After the many horrors Emily had lived through, that seemed to be her breaking point.
As soon as Aunt Lydia turned her back, Emily took out the kitchen knife she still had in her dress and stabbed her in the back. Then Emily punched her and threw her over the railing of the stairs; Aunt Lydia hit the landing but was still conscious, so Emily kicked her down the rest of the way. Cora (the Martha of the Lawrence house) was the first to stumble on the scene and she dragged Emily upstairs to lock her in her room. It looked like punishment would be forthcoming; after mutilation and banishment, the third strike would certainly mean death.
But Emily had no idea what would happen to her and no one gave her any hints. Hours later, Lawrence arrived at her room to hustle her out to the car, though he didn't tip her off as to where they were going. Instead he jammed out to some Annie Lennox in the front seat — and while "Walking on Broken Glass" is an indisputably great song, it's not necessarily what someone wants to hear when they think they're going to their execution.
Lawrence allowed Emily to slowly boil over with dread when he could have very easily told her the truth: she wasn't being taken to the authorities, she was being taken out of Gilead. Emily didn't know she was actually being smuggled out of the country until she saw June, who was also fleeing. A mysterious black car drove up to a hand-off point, where Emily would exit Lawrence's vehicle and get into the one that would presumably take her to the border. Emily got in, ready to go, but June didn't: instead she handed Emily her infant daughter and chose to stay.
By the end of "The Word," Emily was on her way to Canada with June's daughter. Though her journey to recovery won't be easy, it looks as though she's finally free.